Conor Burns, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for International Trade, spoke at an event on Thursday, Jan. 30 hosted by the Mosbacher Institute and the Bush School where he discussed the future of the relationship between the U.K. and the United States post-Brexit.
Burns, representing the U.K. government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, made the first trip to the U.S. by a Minister after Brexit, which officially took place on Jan. 31. His talk highlighted the importance of deepening the U.S.-U.K. trade relationship and highlighted areas of opportunity for trade between Texas and Britain.
Burns said although it would have been easier to go to larger cities such as New York City or Los Angeles, Texas was appealing for two reasons: the state’s economy is growing at twice the rate of the American economy and it has a diverse energy sector.
“If you took Texas and made it a country, it would have the tenth largest economy in the world,” Burns said. “There is so much synergy between the United Kingdom and Texas and what the two places can offer.”
Many in the audience disagreed with Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Burns sought to assuage those concerns by stating the U.K. was not “pulling up the drawbridge,” but instead re-engaging with the world on an independent basis.
“Brexit was a democratic rebellion through which we can take back our money, laws and borders,” Burns said.
The arguments made by Burns were intriguing to Ted Tyler, a second-year international affairs graduate student.
“He presented logical and valid reasons for Brexit,” Tyler said. “Whether or not you agree with them is up for debate, but he made a compelling case.”
Burns made a point of emphasizing the importance of the long-standing U.K.-U.S. special relationship. He called the United States his country’s “staunchest, most long-standing friend and ally.”
“The relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is pivotal – economically, politically, culturally, socially, financially,” Burns said.
Sherman Tylawsky, another second-year international affairs graduate student, shares this sentiment.
“I think this is a phenomenal moment for U.S.-U.K. relations,” Tylawsky said. “Having studied in the U.K., I learned about Brexit throughout school and thought it was a huge opportunity to renew bilateral relations between our two countries.”
Burns was optimistic about getting free trade deals completed, especially one with the EU. That trade deal has an 11 month deadline, which is shorter than the average negotiating period.
“I’m very confident we can do it because both sides committed to that,” Burns said. “We are starting from a position where we have the same rulebook with no tariffs and no quotas.”
Burns finished his talk on a note of optimism and warmth regarding the U.K.-U.S. relationship, quoting a Winston Churchill line from World War II, “‘So long as our two great nations stand together, we need fear no one, and we need fear nothing.’”